Carla (susheel) Bruni - First Lady no longer 'feels Left-wing'

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By AMIT ROY AND OUR BUREAU WRITTEN WITH A REPORT FROM THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
  • Published 2.02.11
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Carla Bruni

Feb. 1: Bobos of Bengal, you have some fetching company if you have already ditched the Left or are straining at the leash to do so.

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the self-styled Bobo (bourgeois bohemian), has confessed to no longer “feeling Left-wing”.

It may be sacrilege or worse to suggest that Bengal has Bobos, although a particular brand that carries the label “susheel samaj” has been making itself heard since the political wind began to change direction in the state.

Before the gentle folks cry “apasanskriti” in righteous indignation, let it be known that all Carla meant by “Bobo” was that she belonged to “a community of artists” when she considered herself Left.

It may have taken 33 years for the “civil society” in Bengal to kick their Left addiction. But Carla has accomplished the feat after just three years of marriage to the conservative French President, Nicolas Sarkozy.

If some are seeing political opportunism in the switch by some members of the Bengal civil society, French commentators are saying the same about their First Lady.

The supermodel-turned-singer’s reputation as a “luvvie Lefty” has been cited as a major handicap to Sarkozy’s re-election, and her political change of heart is being seen as an attempt to boost support for her unpopular husband among his core Right-wing electorate.

Only two years ago, Carla had claimed that she was “instinctively Left-wing” after at one stage supporting her husband’s socialist rival in the 2007 presidential elections. She had also publicly opposed Sarkozy’s plan to conduct DNA tests on immigrants.

In 2008, she told the Libération newspaper: “Nobody has to be joined at the hip in politics or with one’s husband.” A year earlier, she told a British newspaper: “I would never vote on the Right.”

But in Monday’s interview with Le Parisien newspaper, she said her previous political persuasion was only because of her belonging to a “community of artists”.

“We were Bobo (bourgeois bohemian), we were Left-wing but at that time I voted in Italy (her native country). I have never voted for the Left in France and I can tell you I’m not about to start now. I don’t really feel Left-wing any more,” she said.

Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni in Cairo. File picture

Carla has French nationality and can thus vote in next year’s presidential elections, when her husband is expected to stand for a second five-year term.

The Bengal “civil society” will have to make up its mind even earlier as only a few months are left for the Assembly elections.

Worried Carla-watchers were today trying to work out why the French First Lady has dumped the Left. One theory doing the rounds — and admittedly, it seems an unlikely one — is that when she accompanied President Sarkozy to Delhi in December, Carla slipped down to Khan Market and bought an armful of Leftist books which she took back to Paris with her.

According to unreliable sources, she quite enjoyed Prakash Karat’s tribute to his old professor: Across Time and Continents: A tribute to Victor Kiernan.

But her sunny mood darkened after she had battled her way through Subordinate Ally: The Nuclear Deal and India-US Strategic Relations by the CPM general secretary. This was the flipping point, some claim.

Whether one book can cause such a swing in political allegiance is for her to say but Carla’s interview today has provoked much hand-wringing among the fraternal comrades in Europe.

Paris, like Calcutta, has always been seen as the home of what the British call “champagne socialists” — a reference to folks wealthy enough to espouse trendy Left-wing causes. In Britain, they are lumped together indulgently as “Hampstead socialists”.

Their numbers include many “luvvies” — people who work in film, theatre and the arts. It is customary for men who move in such circles to kiss on meeting and certainly to address each other as “darling”.

On a serious note, a communist veteran felt that a lot of Leftists of the Carla variety were “instinctively Left” because it was kind of “cool” in the bohemian sense — it allowed one to feel liberated of social orthodoxies. But in the last few decades, the Left has lost its “cool quotient” since such parties have come up with no new ideas in a post-Cold War world. In the absence of fresh, imaginative ideas, they stick to old shibboleths of “evil capitalism” and have become even more rigid and orthodox in their party structures.

Carla said she was disgusted by the way film director Roman Polanski, who faces rape charges in America, and arts minister Frederic Mitterand had been demonised by Left-wing commentators. She criticised many of the socialist politicians who attacked the pair and said they sounded like France’s racist National Front party.

Without any suggestion that any member of Bengal’s culture clan is a Bobo, The Telegraph asked theatre actress-director Saoli Mitra if her political leanings had changed. “I won’t say I have had a change of heart. I never strongly believed in any political party. Whatever I did was as a humanist. But from whatever I know of communism, I can say that the CPM in our state are not the true Left.”

Playwright and director Bratya Basu appears to have had a change of heart. “I was an ultra-Left as a student. But I came from a pro-Left family. Most of my friends also had a strong Left inclination. But now I believe in neither the Left nor the Right wing. Politics in our state is just a mere tussle for power,” Basu said.

The change was more specific for theatre director Bibhas Chakraborty. “I am still a communist. But I don’t subscribe to the policies of the CPM. They are as capitalist as any Right-wing party. There is a change of heart where the CPM is concerned,” Chakraborty said.

In case some members of the Bengal clan are squirming at the perceived Carla parallel, take a look at her cultural credentials. Last week, Sarkozy rattled off a string of obscure, highbrow films and books he claimed to have recently watched or read.

“I am not joking,” the husband told a throng of incredulous journalists.